SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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MAnAGInG ThE ARTROOM State of Collaboration Dennis Greenwell and Jack Watson A rt teachers are often the only people in a school who teach what we teach, and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues can be rare and difficult to sustain. It is possible to collaborate with teachers of other disciplines, but this is often difficult to orchestrate. Art teachers may find that the most productive outlet for collaboration may be with colleagues at other schools. Finding a connection with an innovative colleague can be an inspiration, the jump-start of an idea for a new unit, or the source of a fresh take on an old concept. One Concept, Two Approaches Upon working together, we realized that we have a similar interest in beauty and aesthetics, so that became our common big idea. We approached the concept from different angles: Finding beauty in the mundane and the everyday versus transforming something "unbeautiful" into something beautiful. These different approaches to the same concept enriched both projects, adding unforeseen depth. We took ideas from each other's teaching and added it into our own while still respecting the integrity of our respective projects. Making Introductions Two high Schools We began with an informal Skype We are visual arts educators worksession so we could meet each other ing in different states and in differface-to-face before working together ent contexts. We share an interest online. We next in contemporary art and processFinding a connection with paired one of oriented work, an innovative colleague can Jack's advanced and we also share be an inspiration, the jump- classes with one of Dennis's intro a desire to expose start of an idea for a new classes because of our students (and unit, or the source of a fresh a time constraint, ourselves) to new but this had the experiences. By take on an old concept. unexpected beneusing an online fit of allowing the older students to act platform and a common big idea, we as mentors for the younger ones. We were able to create a meaningful colmade sure that our online meetings laboration in which students worked were very lighthearted and informal, together at every stage of a project, hoping to make students comfortable from concept development to critique. with each other. Communicating through Pinterest Moving forward, we would complete work independently and then post it to a dedicated page on Pinterest. We moderated these boards and invited all of our students to join the board as contributors. Students used the boards as a blog to comment, question, and encourage each other. Students had a simple task: Post one image that fits your definition of beauty and respond to three other student posts. This produced one of the most heartening outcomes—everyone's voice was clearly and equally heard. We discovered that some of our 8 shyest students—ones who rarely participated in class discussions—were actually some of the most thoughtful and articulate. A Lasting Bond At the end of the project, students posted their own finished work with a short artist statement, and students from the opposite schools responded in an online critique. These conversations were rich and demonstrated that the bond between these schools had opened up a space for deep and meaningful reflection. We feel like we have just scratched the surface of possibilities for collaboration. Our next step may involve collaborating on actual works, sending pieces back and forth. This will hopefully be an ongoing collaboration for years to come. Dennis Greenwell is an art teacher at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Jack Watson is an art teacher at Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. WEb Link

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